Asian culture on dating

KUALA LUMPUR: "How do you get them to give you money?

It’s my third date and he hasn’t given me anything or money."This was a question left by a "sugar baby" on a forum powered by The Sugar Book - a Malaysia-based website that was set up in 2016.

The dating platform allows individuals "who enjoy the finer things in life" to meet men or women whose financial resources "have to be sufficient enough to pamper (their) sugar baby".

With the tagline "Where Romance Meets Finance", The Sugar Book's set up has raised more than a few eyebrows.

This week, it caught the attention of parliamentarians in Singapore - The Sugar Book's second largest market with about 30,000 users.

That's 29 to 30 per cent of its entire user base compared to the 40 to 42 per cent from Malaysia.

Singapore's Members of Parliament feared the site was demeaning to women, with transactions "fundamentally imbalanced, in favour of older and wealthier people".

The Sugar Book said its website caters to practical wants, based on research which showed that money was a key factor for many women pursuing relationships.Their model of stating financial expectations from the get-go could even help avoid divorces, suggested Ms Ong, citing the 2016 Prudential Relationship Index that showed money as a major source of arguments for couples in Singapore."If money is the second reason contributing to (arguments between couples in Singapore), we would like to provide a platform where right from the beginning people can be honest and transparent about what they want," she said.In fact, the company said it hopes to be able to foster real relationships through the site that could lead to marriage, family or long lasting relationships - something it said sets it apart from the likes of Ashley Madison.In 2013, Ashley Madison was banned in Singapore for explicitly advocating infidelity.A check by Channel News Asia, however, found that The Sugar Book users are able to select an option indicating their relationship status - including "Married But Looking" - when setting up their profiles.Aside from physical traits, "sugar babies" are also able to indicate their lifestyle expectations: negotiable, minimal, practical, moderate, substantial or high.They are also able to seek out men and women according to their net worth and annual income. "I’m 24 and a broke student."This is one of the stories shared on the The Sugar Book forum - and an example of someone from a key demographic for the site.While The Sugar Book said it does not have exact figures for student members, it does have a "Student Programme" - what it calls "the modern way to avoid student loan debt".The programme allows people to sign up with their university's email addresses or show proof of enrolment to access free premium membership.In January, Malaysia's Higher Education Ministry said it was looking into whether action should be taken, advising students to use "legal and proper ways" to finance their education, as reported by The Star.A ministry spokesperson told Channel News Asia the case was still open.

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